Monday, 1 April 2013

Joining the family

Alexa and I have finally finished editing The Bone Season, and it's been sent off to the typesetter to be turned into a hardback. I got a bit shaky before we sent it off – I'll never be able to tweak it again – but there comes a point when you have to let a book go and make its own way in the world. I'm very happy with the finished novel.  

Last Thursday I had tea with literary book bloggers from all over the country, including Karen Howlett of Cornflower Books and Simon Savidge of Savidge Reads. Karen has followed me since my deal was announced, so it was lovely to finally meet her in person. Book bloggers are fantastic people: they work incredibly hard for their passion, largely with no financial reimbursement, and whether positive or negative, their detailed feedback does wonders for both authors and other readers. So thank you, book bloggers, for working as hard as you do.

On the subject of reviews, it was recently announced that Goodreads, probably the most vibrant reviewing community on the Internet, has been bought by Amazon. My heart sank when I saw the GR announcement on their Twitter feed, which seemed to me to be deceptively cheerful, giving the impression that GR is joining the booming Amazon "family". I'm not currently a member of Goodreads
I'm not convinced it's the right place for authors, although I'm still debating but I do enjoy glancing through reviews on there, and I've always thought it was a great place for readers to get together and discuss what's hot and what's not. Although I have no doubt that the acquisition will bring some benefits to readers (particularly Kindle-using readers), it makes me a tiny bit uncomfortable that another facet of the book industry is hopping into bed with Amazon. Goodreads was never commercial, never a site that sold books; it was a neutral environment in which readers could share opinions. Amazon plays on a different field. GR, for them, will become an invaluable well of data about what people read, and consequently, what they buy. Now the two giants are joined at the hip, I'm not sure Goodreads' neutrality can last. 

I became wary of Amazon after reading about their tax avoidance in the UK. I used to be a regular customer, but I very rarely buy there now. I could just be old-fashioned, but I think that as Amazon tightens an increasingly large fist around the publishing industry, it will drain the life from booksellers and traditional publishers, especially from the indie scene. I value the book industry, its variety and energy, and the discussion and passion that surrounds it. I value the human interaction of bookselling and the teamwork of publishing. I worry for the future with Amazon dogging the industry's footsteps. I also think it unlikely, now, that Goodreads will be able to promote indie booksellers when they could be promoting the Kindle. Otis Chandler said those links would "probably" stay, but I'm not sure I believe it. There could be hardly any change to GR – we'll have to wait and see

So that's my little list of initial thoughts. What do you guys think of the acquisition? Do you think this change was inevitable, or should GR have remained independent?  
 
 

13 comments:

  1. I didn't know about the tax avoidance thing in the UK. But, I'm not surprised. There's no such thing as a non-greedy corp in the world today. I don't even have an opinion on Amazon's purchasing of GR. I'm addicted to GR and it's too bad you don't want to join in on all the fun as an author. You really ought to reconsider! I don't know what to think about it until some time passes. It might mean very little change.

    I think Amazon is such a big player and that scares a lot of people who still hold onto the old mode of publishing. There's nothing wrong with the old mode. But, technology has caused this self-publishing boom and Amazon got lucky when people started buying up their Kindle ereaders. It's neither a good thing nor a bad thing. It just is. People want to read ebooks and they make that happen. They can sell more ebooks if they give unpublished authors the chance to sell their ebooks, too. This is why they do this. They are not trying to destroy the existing model. They are just capitalizing on a market that didn't exist before their technology became available.

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    1. That's true. You're right, it could mean very little change. I don't think Amazon is trying to completely destroy the old model – things inevitably change over time – but I don't think it's good for any industry (whether it's books or DVDs or music) to be controlled by one company. I think eBooks are a great idea, and Amazon have done well to capitalise on that market, as you say, but I hope GR still finds space to promote other booksellers, even if doing so would represent a conflict of interest with Amazon's Kindle sales.

      GR does look fun – I might join at some point. Think it had better wait until after exams, though – I might get addicted!

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  2. I was sad to hear about GR. I liked that it was independent. It does sound like they're going to be making changes to commercialize it and I think that will erode the essence that was GR. Perhaps it will be for the best, but I have to admit I'm sceptical. We'll just have to wait and see :)

    P.S. Is there any chance you'll be coming to Australia when The Bone Season is released? Say yes :O).

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    1. Yes, we can only wait... and I'd love to come to Australia! Nothing planned yet but Bloomsbury do have an HQ in Sydney, so hopefully I'll be down under at some point.

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  3. Does the Bone Season have any LGBT characters in? If not, do you have any plans to introduce such characters later on in the series?

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  4. I bought A song of Ice and Fire from Amazon a while back, and I found out my local bookstore sold the boxset and regretted it. I think the change was inevitable, but Goodreads will still be the same, I am sure- Amazon just provides stability. Amazon will not drown out the book industry- Rest assured I will buy your book the old fashioned way- in a shop. Amazon's delivery damages books, and it is so much nicer to chat to booksellers.

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    1. I'm so glad to hear you'll be buying The Bone Season from a bookshop. I'm not against Amazon – I've used it to buy academic books before – but like you say, it's lovely to have the human interaction and discussion you get in good bookshops.

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  5. My aunt works in publishing and has long called Amazon "The Walmart of the Internet." I have usually avoided doing business with them if possible, just as I do Walmart. I had no idea Amazon had bought GR, so thank you for posting this. I have an account but am still pretty mystified as to the overarching purpose of it. I am just going to wait and see how events unfold, since I do not use the site avidly anyway.

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    1. Why don't you do business with Walmart? (Sorry, I'm from the UK, not familiar with US stores)

      I think GR has a great idea at its core: a social media tool based around books. I just hope Amazon won't damage it in any way. So far it looks as though not many changes have been made, so perhaps I was wrong to worry.

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  6. May I ask why you don't think GR is the right place for authors? I understand that there have been a lot of controversies when authors have interacted with readers, but I've also seen a lot of authors who are active on GR and are fine. I'm not a huge user of GR either, although I am with you on feeling uncomfortable with Amazon's potential monopolization of the publishing industry. I wonder what kind of "updates" they'll bring to Kindle users, or if anything, GR will just become a store of data and a place for Amazon to advertise (already seen the latter happening).

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    1. Hi Christina – I really think GR is fine for authors so long as they're not tempted to respond to negative reviews. If there's any danger of reviewers feeling like they can't be completely honest about a book because of the author's presence, I want to avoid it. I probably will join GR at some point in the future, now I've had my first reviews.

      I'm also curious about what Amazon will do to change GR. I just hope they're still allowed to promote booksellers and devices like the Kobo as well as Kindle. I'd be uncomfortable if they made it difficult or less convenient to use GR for non-Kindle users.

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